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The movie theater chain that recently kicked out a prominent and nationally recognized civil rights leader and his elderly mother during a screening of “The Color Purple” has a history of being accused of discrimination.

The Rev. William Barber II was told to leave an AMC Theatre location in North Carolina on Tuesday after it refused to allow him to use a special chair he brought with him in the theater’s section for patrons with wheelchairs. The special seat is one he uses to accommodate an arthritic condition that prevents him from using seats typically found in movie theaters.

The theater ended up calling the cops on Barber, a minister and social justice activist who requires two canes to walk. Barber was accused of being argumentative.

What happened?

Video footage from the incident was shared on social media and showed Barber talking to, not arguing with, the responding police officers.

“They called an officer of the law, the AMC theater in Greenville, North Carolina,” Barber says while looking into the camera. “They would not make amends to simply do the right thing. But we’ll deal with it.”

Barber repeats that he’s “not resisting” as police tell him to exit the theater to be charged with trespassing, although no charges were ever actually brought.

“I felt like I wasn’t being heard,” Barber said. “It felt as though they weren’t even trying to consider making accommodations for my disability.”

Watch the video below.

Barber cited the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 as giving him the provisional right to use the special chair, which he said he’s used at places from Broadway shows to the White House.

“I said this is my ADA and they questioned me,” Barber told WRAL News. “They said, ‘No, that’s a regular chair,’ and I said, ‘No, it’s for me because I can’t sit low. It’s impossible.’”

Barber said he was told that because he didn’t have a wheelchair he couldn’t use his special seat.

“Everything I know about ADA law says you’re supposed to make adjustments,” Barber said before adding later: “This is just about how we treat, how we say to disabled folk, ‘There’s no room at the inn’ if you don’t come a certain way.’”

AMC Theatres later apologized to Barber, CNN reported.

“AMC’s Chairman and CEO Adam Aron has already telephoned him, and plans to meet with him in person in Greenville, NC, next week to discuss both this situation and the good works Bishop Barber is engaged in throughout the years,” AMC Theatres said in a statement. “We are also reviewing our policies with our theater teams to help ensure that situations like this do not occur again.”

AMC has been accused of discrimination before

To be sure, this is not the first time AMC Theatres has been accused of discriminating against a Black paying customer.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump sued AMC Theatres in 2021 for racial profiling and discrimination on behalf of Larry Shelton, a Black man who recorded his encounter with theater staff at a location in Phoenix, Arizona in 2019. Shelton was falsely accused by theater staff of sneaking into a movie without paying.

Shelton said he went out of the theater to refill his drink in the middle of a movie. But when he returned to the theater and tried to come back in, the manager accused him of trying to sneak in. He told the manager he bought a ticket, advised him to check surveillance footage for confirmation and continued back to his seat.

That’s when a theater security guard confronted Shelton and made the same accusation.

Watch the video below.


Unbeknownst to Shelton, the manager called the police, who also entered the theater to escort him out.

That’s when Shelton was forced to “fight against the presumption of guilt,” as Crump put it, just to prove his innocence despite the absence of any proof or evidence of any wrongdoing.

After the police asked, Shelton produced his ticket stub, which was reluctantly verified by the theater manager.

But the manager, who previously said he was “100% sure” Shelton sneaked in, still said Shelton had to leave and asked the police to escort him off the premises.

At the time, Shelton could be heard on the video he recorded prophetically telling the manager, “This is gonna be bad for y’all.”


Similar to Barber’s case, AMC apologized to Shelton and announced plans for racial bias training for its staff.

AMC theater in Louisiana

Also in 2019, a group of elderly Black women reported being racially profiled at an AMC Theatres location near New Orleans.

The members of 504 Queens, a local African American women’s empowerment group, were watching “Harriet” at AMC Clearview Palace theater in Metairie, Louisiana, when “the lights went on in a crowded theater” and the women were “questioned whether their tickets were real and then accused them of cursing and being aggressive enough to warrant shutting off the film,” NOLA reported at the time.

The women were forced to show their tickets to an employee and their tickets matched the assigned seats, but the employee didn’t believe them, one of the women recalled.

“I saw how people were looking at us. It was humiliating. Especially with the movie being shown,” Sandra Gordon, 65, said about the subject matter in the biopic about Harriet Tuban. “We were watching people being whipped, being shot in the head, their children being sold away from them. And then you shut down this movie, this emotional movie, and come to me about a ticket dispute? It felt like the 1800s again in 2019.”

AMC Theatres’ corporate office claimed it was a mistake “by the theater team led to this unacceptable and unnecessary disruption.”

This is America.


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